Osprey's World War I Seaplane and Aircraft Carriers


Mark Lardas, illustrated by Paul Wright


Osprey Publishing


$18.00 MSRP


Scott Van Aken

Notes: 48 pages, 7 x 9 inches, softbound
ISBN: 978-1-4728-1378-7

When one thinks of naval power in WWI, aircraft carriers are not generally near the top of the list. Aviation was a very new thing, but the British and other fighting powers were not ignorant of the capabilities of this nascent addition to their military forces. Airplanes were vastly superior to pretty much everything in terms of reconnaissance and were quite useful to navies in terms of locating other ships.

As the war expanded, it was obvious that there was a need for a specialized ship to carry aircraft. Often capital ships had the ability to carry aircraft, but they were really just in the way when shells started to fall, especially as aviation fuel was not a good thing to have. So if they still had aircraft, on board, the plan was to shove them and all their fuel over the side as battle drew near.

Fortunately, it was decided to build or convert ships just for the purpose of carrying aircraft. Initially these were sea planes of some sort; mostly floatplanes. Indeed, it was floatplanes that performed the first aviation attack against ships and dropped the first aerial torpedo against a ship. The two nations who saw the greatest benefit from these vessels were the British and the Russians, though the Japanese were probably the first to use them in combat.

It was British innovation that designed ships to carry fighters, though getting them back safely was usually not a main concern. They built the first aircraft carrier, the HMS Furious, which had a landing and take off deck, but also had the main ship's super structure and funnel in the middle of the ship, necessitating the carful movement of aircraft to the take off ramp. Later, the HMS Hermes was built as the first flush deck carrier that we all recognize even today.

The author covers the full development as well as the usual trials and errors of getting functional ships to where they were useful. The numbers of converted ships is significantly greater than those purpose built, yet they all served a purpose and were, to some degree or another, useful. The book has superb period photos of these interesting ships and illustrator Paul Wright adds even more great images (such as the cover) to enhance the book. I found it a great read as in all the New Vanguard series and it often whets one's desire to learn more.

November 2016

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